I have been so busy gardening and cooking and enjoying the last few weeks of summer that I never got around to writing "Vermont Diary - Part II", the thrilling sequel to "Vermont Diary - Part I." Contributing to my negligence was a short trip to Maine, highlights of which I will include in this short piece about why I love New England.
The day after my visit to Walter Jeffries' Sugar Mountain Farm and my fantastic Belted Galloway burger dinner at Juniper's, I was driving aimlessly around the back roads of Vermont, looking for trouble. When I write "looking for trouble", I'm not referring to getting into a brawl in a biker bar, but convincing a farmer to break the law and sell me a gallon of raw milk. While driving, I happily noticed a lot of hand-painted signs made by residents who were selling their own wares from their own homes. There were definitely no middlemen around these parts.
A good sign (you can take this double-entendre any way you like) was a large hand-painted anti-NAIS billboard on the side of a barn near Orleans. It was over ten feet tall and the farmers who painted it were more than willing to have a nice chat about food, farming, and ethics — but they wouldn't release any contraband dairy. I also stopped at a small farm and bought a dozen eggs, but once again not a drop of raw milk. I think these eggs were intended for locals because they were priced at $1.50. In Montreal, "organic" eggs cost over $5 a dozen.
I pulled over at a farm that had a beautiful bull in the front yard — pictured to the right - and the farmers told me that they drink raw milk every day but they simply couldn't sell it. If I wanted some of their milk, the nice farmer told me, I would have to drive about half a mile down the road to the general store where their milk was mixed with other farmers milk a few towns over and then pasteurized to rid it of it's beneficial (and possibly harmful) bacteria. Foiled again!
For variety, I stopped at another farm and got another dozen eggs. I'd have bought more eggs, but the Canadian government only allows each traveler to cross the border with no more than two dozen eggs. With terrorism alerts at an all-time high (for the past six consecutive years), the government has to be careful how many eggs they allow to cross their borders.
The farmer's 14-year-old son, who sold me the eggs, bragged to me that raw milk was all he ever drank. "I've never had pasteurized milk," he added, telling me that he cannot possibly sell me a gallon of raw milk — his parents simply wouldn't let him. I half-jokingly asked if he was allowed to invite me into his home and give me a glass of raw milk. He mulled it over and happily invited me into the kitchen, where I met his parents. While I enjoyed a big glass of raw milk from their refrigerator, we discussed the benefits of raw milk and the unfortunate situation which prohibited them from selling their milk unpasteurized.
A couple of weeks later, while visiting my family in Maine, I shopped at a Saturday farmers market in York which was everything I thought it would be. I bought some of the best corn I have ever eaten along with some long skinny purple eggplants and some bright green zucchini which were grilled later that evening and enjoyed along with our factory-farm raised meat. There is only so much I can influence my family, so far. I also drove by Arrows restaurant, where the owners cure their own hams and fish, make all desserts and breads in house, and utilize their huge gardens for produce. I promised ymslef I would eat there next year, when I had Noshette with me.
On my way back to Montreal, on the back roads of New Hampshire, where I was hoping to score some fresh eggs, I saw a brown hand-painted sign that pointed me down a road to the end of a long driveway. Sitting there on a small platform was a refrigerator where locals could grab a dozen eggs and leave the $2 in a cash box inside the refrigerator. Bless the honour system! I grabbed a dozen and continued along my way.
I really love New England. If I didn't need a green card (which is pretty hard thing to get these days) I would seriously consider moving there. It is filled with tons of small farms, lots of rivers and lakes, plenty of mountains, not too many skyscrapers, and hopefully, one day, me.